Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Comic: Reclamation of Relationship

Almost based on a true story. I'm sure there are plenty of girls out there who can relate when a new game comes out. Needless to say, she was relieved when it was over. Little does she know, multiplayer lives on...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Halo 4: A Desperate Quest to Save Your Digital Girlfriend

"I won't let that happen."

"And if it happens anyway?"

Since Halo's first installment in 2001, Master Chief has been portrayed as an unstoppable force of nature on the battlefield of the future. He can obliterate entire battalions of advanced interstellar life with his bare hands, survive a fall from orbit, and inspire the forces of Earth with his presence alone. Yet for all that, for the very first time in his decade spanning career, we see a side of Chief that no universe threatening alien, cosmic death ray, or physical wound could produce.We see him question what he is. We see him falter. We see the man behind the helmet. And I will not tell you why.

Get ready for answers.

Selfish? Perhaps. But the story line of Halo 4, particularly its ending, is the best out of all the games in the series and I will not ruin it for anyone who plans to play it and I certainly recommend any fan of FPS or science fiction do. 343 did an amazing job taking over for Bungie and the story they deliver is mature, entertaining, and much less cryptic than previous installments. 

"And that cloud looks like a space ship!"
"Shut up, Cortana, you're drunk."

After an unexpected cinematic featuring Dr. Halsey, the creator of the Spartans, that hints at the mental health of her Spartans (it was at this point I knew things would get interesting as the actual psychological aspect of the super soldiers has never been touched in the games before) we begin where the third game left off; Chief is awakened by Cortana inside the disabled UNSC frigate Forward Onto Dawn that has drifted toward an unidentified alien planet. After realizing the ship has been boarded by Covenant we enter a firefight that spans throughout the ship and on to the hull, ending in a climactic battle through open space and the shattered remains of an alien cruiser. You are then sucked through a gravity well and land on the alien planet's surface.

One of these things is not like the other, one of these things  is a digital representation of an
assimilated ancient human.

Welcome to Requiem, an ancient forerunner planet and the settting for most of the game. You will battle through canyons, valleys, jungles, and massive alien structures on your quest to find the advanced UNSC ship Infinity that has approached the planet on the tail of Forward Onto Dawn's distress beacon. The three major plot points of the story come up at this point: the forerunner antagonist called the Didact whom you unwittingly release from prison (and who's true motive I won't spoil here), the new batch of Spartans on board the Infinity led by a real prick of a Captain you'll continuously butt heads with, and the fact that Cortana is rapidly thinking herself to death inside of your head.

Prepare yourself for feels.

Cortana, as an AI, has a lifespan of about 7 years. It has been 8 since her creation. The condition she is facing, called rampancy, causes her to break down into conflicting copies of herself like insane digital schizophrenia. Her condition steadily worsens as the game progresses; she argues with the conflicting personalities that are created as she breaks down, struggles to maintain her composure as she hacks enemy computer systems, and even disrupts your internal computers and display as she struggles to hold it together. Master Chief, being the relentless totem of bad ass that he is, refuses to acknowledge Cortana's failing health and continuously tells her that she will be fine and that he will get her back to Dr. Halsey (who created Cortana from her own nuero-tissue) and save her from herself.

Leave it to DeviantArt to find this image.

Cortana's deteriorating condition is the driving force of the narrative. She has been your trusty blue companion throughout the entire series and hearing her scream in agony as her very essence is ripped to shreds is gripping, as is the Chief's determination to save her. In the second act it becomes all too apparent how much you rely on her to survive on the battlefield as her abilities to navigate the terrain, manipulate technology, and coordinate allied forces are compromised. It's this arc that keeps me thinking about the game and it's powerful conclusion after I completed the campaign. It's what's got me excited about this new addition and what it means for future installments. The story exquisitely handles the relationship between Chief and Cortana, from it's  borderline romantics, to its grand design as the fruition of all mankind's effort and evolution.

The Mammoth is so friggin' awesome.

As far as the mechanics go, the game is tight and challenging. The new breed of enemies, the Prometheans,  are coordinated and challenging. There are several noteworthy moments like manning a giant land carrier called the Mammoth and making your way through a massive valley with acidic rivers and a spaceship shattering rail gun to piloting a fighter through a trench on the Didact's ship in a scene that will have Star Wars fans creaming their pants. The game really picks up in the second half and expect to encounter a lot of mechanics that exist in just a single level and never to be seen again which keeps the game fresh and interesting. You will also notice a lot of the redundant level design that was heavy in the previous games is missing. Don't expect much in the way of weapon innovation, all the staples are there and going nowhere (although rockets no longer lock on and there are mechs.)

Being able to shoot while holding the flag is a welcome addition.

Multiplayer is back with a new Spartan Hub interface which allows you to customize load outs and buy perks similar to the Call of Duty franchise and is so big it requires a second disk that needs to be installed on your HDD to play or downloaded from Xbox Live. There are ton of armor customization options this time around, some you unlock just by leveling up and others that require specific challenges to be met, like running over 50 guys with with a Warthog. All the familiar modes are there, Juggernaught (Regicide), Zombies (Flood), Capture the Flag, SWAT, and Big Team Slayer to name a few though I'm still waiting on them to add multi-team so I can get back to Rocket Race. Firefight has been replaced by Spartan Ops which is a separate campaign that is released as episodic content and features your custom-made Spartan as a member of Crimson company that is composed of you and your buddies or match-made players and trust me, after playing it you won't miss Firefight at all.

Who needed giant robots? Halo needed giant robots.

As a Halo fan I was not disappointed. 343 did an amazing job and they make a point to thank the fans for allowing them this chance to take Halo in a new direction as evident in the credits and the first pop up message that appears when you boot up the game. The music, graphics, voices, and game play all exceed expectations and had me hooked in a way video games haven't for a very long time. So go buy it and suit up, Spartan! Those alien bastards aint gonna teabag themselves!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bond Is Back

"Not only is this the best Daniel Craig 'Bond' film... this could very well be one of the best in the series." - Darris

I said this while walking out of the theater having just seen Skyfall. I've been a James Bond fan my entire life, and those words escaped my lips before I even realized it. Saying that Skyfall was the best of the three more modern Bond films is one thing... but saying it could top my favorites? Better than The Man with the Golden Gun or even GoldenEye?

I mean sure, Skyfall has better action scenes than the action-heavy Casino Royale. And sure, the fights were wonderfully choreographed and felt realistic every time. AND SURE, Bond now has a sense of humor again, throwing out one-liners on occasion to the immense satisfaction of everyone else in the theater with me. But... but...

But nothing. I honestly couldn't find an easy reason to hate this film like I could for Quantum of Solace. The action transitions nicely from scene to scene, the script makes sense and tells the story surrounding the characters in a relatable and fun way. While the villain of this story is less "bald-guy stroking cat" and more akin to the Joker from The Dark Knight, he fits in just as much as Bond himself.

Leaving the theater I was honestly shocked at how much I enjoyed Skyfall. How much fun I had watching the action play out like I was six years old again and viewing Moonraker for the first time on VHS. Now that the shock has fully worn off, lets get on with it.


The pre-credits opening scene is a staple of nearly every Bond film known to man, and this one does the job well. 007 (played by Mr. Craig) is on a mission in Turkey retrieving an encrypted hard-drive that contains a full list of undercover agents infiltrating terrorist organizations. Arriving just too late, he finds his fellow agents dead and the hard-drive on the move. A fellow agent named Eve (Naomie Harris) picks him up and and they give chase.

The first scenes of the chase through Turkey give you a glimpse of the action ahead in the film

The chase goes from car to motorcycle and finally ends with Bond and the man he's pursing fighting on the top of a train. Eve sets up on the top of an adjacent hill ahead of the train and prepares to try and shoot the runner. This creates a tense moment in which Bond is grappling on the train and M (Judi Dench) order's Eve to take the shot, even though she might hit Bond.

After the conclusion of this scene, the movie starts proper.

The love-interest found in Eve is felt early and often in the movie

After talking so much about the movies opening, I don't want to get much deeper into specifics. The man with the hard-drive gets away, the names of undercover agents start to get leaked, and panic starts spreading through MI6. Suddenly the major threats out in the world are not giant men with metal teeth, but the hacking of a computer, or the sending of a virus. This calls into question the necessity of even having agents like 007 when the future moves closer and closer to becoming fully digital in life and crime.

If there's one thing I've always loved about the recent Bond films, it's Judi Dench's performance as 'M'

Bond, injured and unfit to serve thanks to damage done in during the opening scene must reevaluate his commitment not only to England, but to M herself. The relationship between Bond and M has always been a major factor in 007 movies since GoldenEye, but this grows only more defined during the run of the film for a very important reason.

The villain this time around know M very well. Knows her maybe even more than Bond thinks he does.

While maybe not the best Bond villain, Silva is menacing, funny, charming and disgusting all at the same time

Here enters Raoul Silva, played wonderfully by Javier Bardem (probably known best for his role in No Country for Old Men). Silva is not your typical cyber-terrorist eccentric nut-job, but actually carries with him a crushing amount of truth and honesty not seen in Bond baddies before. Sure he's slightly psychotic, but as you learn more about him and his past, you can see where some of his rage and subtle behavior comes from. Bardem pulls off Silva with such honesty and grace, I'd be surprised if he isn't nominated for some sort of award, even if the film as a whole might not make it into Oscar territory.

Every scene with Silva grabs your attention, especially when he interacts with M

Other noteworthy actors to look out for include Ben Whishaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes who plays Gareth Mallroy, a former Lieutenant in the British Army who now oversees the actions of MI6. Both bring great performances, if not short-lived for the sake of keeping the pace of the film steadily going.

Whishaw as 'Q' shows how a new generation of crime and crime-fighters are invading the MI6 of olde


Skyfall was a surprise. I went to see it hoping that with a new director and time to reflect over how awful Quantum of Solace was there would be an improvement. Just enough of an improvement to bring it at least back to being a fairly good action film.

But it didn't just settle for being one of the best action films of the year. It surpassed that point and ran straight towards its next goal; to be called a true Jame Bond film, with all its kick-ass attitude, charm, jokes, beautiful women and foreign locations.

Not only is is a true Jame Bond film, it may very well be one of my new favorites.


Comic: Social Enmity

It doesn't happen as often as it used to but when I get hooked on a game, I get hooked. Nothing and no one can separate me from new-found digital asylum in which I have become more than flesh and transcended into the realm of absolute being that my brain tells me is inside my Xbox. 

This emotion will develop from the initial "I can quit anytime" emotion to "Why would I want to do anything else?" phase to the climactic "CONTROLLER AND I HAVE BECOME ONE" and then finally to "I should read a book." 

It's a vicious wave that must be ridden to completion lest suffer a nervous breakdown but it is one that I have grown accustomed to. If any of you have ever felt similar physical reactions, please do relate in the comments.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Remembering 'Majora's Mask' - Part 1

Three days...

In three days you must reshape the world. You must solve the problems of the innocent townsfolk. You must save the romance between two lost souls. You must collect the remnants of the crumbling civilizations around you. You must grow in strength, speed, cunning and bravery. You must make a new friend where another was lost. You must face your newest foe with all your might and prevent him from bringing down the moon and destroying this land.

All this shouldn't be too hard for the Hero of Time, but you better act quick:

It's the dawn of the first day, only 72 hours remain.

From Music To Masks

To better understand the game The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask we have to look back at the previous game in the series. Ocarina of Time came out in 1998 to wide and universal acclaim. Nintendo was looking to expand the game using the Japanese exclusive N64DD download service and started work on both Ocarina of Time: Master Quest and Zelda: Gaiden, the latter of which was to be a spin-off of the previous games story. While it took over five years for Nintendo to follow A Link to the Past with Ocarina, both new projects were finished in a little over a year. While it would take until the GameCube for us here in America to get our hands on the Master Quest reworking of Ocarina, holiday 2000 brought us the fruits of the Zelda: Gaiden project. The masks were upon us.

Where time and music played the main roles in the previous game, Majora's Mask add a new arsenal of puzzle solving and prize achieving items: masks obviously!


Sure there were masks in Ocarina of Time as well, but this time masks are the system of story-telling. They relate you as the hero to the people in the buildings of Clock Town and beyond. You dig deeper into each character and solve various puzzles using the masks. The masks become an extension of your own powers and abilities, in some cases quite literally.

While playing the game you come into possession of three crucial masks; the Deku Mask, the Goron Mask and the Zora Mask. These allow Link to take the shape of each of the three different races. The most obvious uses are to solve puzzles or overcome dungeons (Deku's can often take flight from plants, Goron's can survive lava and other harsh elements, and Zora's excel at swimming). In this regard, the masks expand on the tradition of all Zelda games where you find an item and use it to proceed on your quest. But besides the masks ability as tools, they also hold another element that adds to the story.


The three main masks used throughout the game also house the souls of  the recently deceased. In all three cases each mask is formed in different circumstances. Through pain and anguish, the promise of a wish fulfilled, or the ease from life into death. Each of these masks were made from a person and each mask house their living entities. Their abilities, their powers, even their appearances in general are used to advance the game in varying ways.

The majority of the other masks encountered in the game are used more for a deeper puzzle element added to the game. This puzzle side-quest is nearly as complex and imaginative as the main story itself; The Bomber Notebook.


The Bomber Notebook was your window into the lives of the citizens of Clock Town. Their actions, movements, meetings, partnerships, jobs, and promises made over your three-day adventure. On first acquiring the notebook I remember feeling both a sense of importance and the air of mystery. Because while the notebook was about keeping track of the people in the town, it's true intentions were simply to help them. Solve the problems of the people. Fix the issues plaguing their lives. Help them receive solace and peace before the moon comes crashing down on their heads literally.

While this book intertwines your journey, it is but the building blocks of the bigger picture of the game, and what the game truly starts to mean at it's core. In my next article, the games amazing and important story.


The Origin of 5 of Your Favorite Fantasy Monsters

Mr. Dwarf has seen better days

They're the standard level 1 bad guys in fantasy video games, they're the creepy little buggers climbing walls and hissing menacingly from behind jagged teeth in movies of swords and shields, and they're so entrenched in fantasy literature it's hard to find a book that doesn't mention them directly or whatever the author chooses to call them in his or her attempt at being original, even though we all know the truth. Imps, goblins, ogres, trolls. They're the staple monsters  in our favorite pop culture fantasy and folk tales and I'm going to tell you where they came from and why we perceive them as the nasty things they are.

Friendly enough.

1. Imps
Starting with the smallest, smelliest, and most irritating of the common fantasy monsters we have the Imp. Mostly known for being mischievous rather than harmful, these little demons are more aggravating than a than a fresh zit that you can't quite pop yet but you know it's there and it hurts like a son of a bitch. You will notice that the ratio of annoying increases in parallel with size.

Just waterin' my imps.

Imps are a type of demon and entirely German in origin. It should be noted that not all demons in German folklore are malevolent but imps were definitely bastards. They are typically described as the opposite of fairies, who are fun loving and free; imps are wild and general dick faces that liked to switch babies and lead travelers astray because they thought it was HILARIOUS like a college room mate who thinks taking a dump on your pillow is the best thing ever.

Tiny picture is tiny.
Pop Culture
Imps are found to be witch's familiars and irksome little tricksters all throughout the spectrum of pop culture. Sometimes they fly, most times they don't, and they really just like to shit all over everything. Imps are like headcrabs or pubic lice crabs or any kind of crab in general, creepy and slightly salty. They are often hidden in architecture to provide a kind of whimsy and are associated with general mischief  like in Robert Louis Stevenson's 1891 story The Bottle Imp about an imp trapped in a bottle that would grant the owner their every wish, as long as the owner sold the bottle to someone else before their death or face burning in hell fire for all eternity.

I smell man flesh

2. Goblins
They're the small, irritating, and sometimes magical critters you see as the lowest echelon of the fantasy bad guy society. They're a bit bigger than imps and far more common, these guys are ugly, on the front lines, usually dumb, and unquestionably dastardly.

True story.
Although the exact origin is not known, the word goblin most likely comes from either the Old French word gobelin, the Germanic kobold, Midevil Latin cabalus, or Greek kobalos which means "rouge." Another theory is that it is a derivative of the proper name Gobel which only suggests that no one in ancient times thought a Gobel wasn't a douche. In folklore they appear in the texts of Scandinavia, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, United States, India, Japan and South Korea and their description hardly changes across the board.

Standard issue.
Pop Culture
Goblins are everywhere from from classic poetry to Magic: The Gathering. The orcs in Tolkein mythology are referred to as goblins and they can be found in everything from Harry Potter to the Elder Scrolls series to one of the best side-scrollers of all time, Ghosts N Goblins.  The list of formats these creatures have crawled their way into is so exhaustive you would have lie down just from thinking about it for too long so I wont even try to get too far into it. Basically, start walking in one direction in the fantasy genre and you're bound to trip over one of these suckers eventually. They have even been attributed to physical locations like Goblin Bay in Ontario Canada and Goblin Combe in Somerset, U.K

Passion for fashion

3. Ogres
They're the big nasty buggers you see eating children and getting on the road again with their donkey sidekick. They are a step up from the goblins with their size and ferocity and appetite for human flesh. They are also a step down in general annoying-ness, with the exception of said donkey counterpart.

At least that's not terrifying
The word ogre is of French origin which may refer to the inhabitants of Britain prior to human settlement or the word Hongrois which means Hungarian as most western folks thought they were all bunch of jerks and deserved to be put in the same etymological category as flesh eating monsters. It is very interesting to note that trolls and ogres may have been based on the Neanderthals, who lived in caves and practiced cannibalism like their mythological counterparts and have been proven to have lived alongside modern humans until we did what we do best and killed the tits off of them to extinction. The word ogre itself was popularized by the Italian author Giambattista Basile (1575–1632) and is even seen in Beowulf as orcnÄ“as which inspired the name of Tolkeins orcs.

Pop Culture
As previously mentioned, Ogres are usually the next step on your path to slaying the grand master evil wizard/emperor/dragon/knight/god/hermaphrodite/lizard/king/demon/icky-nasty at his super sweet skull castle by the volcano and can usually be found in all your classic tales. The most notable ogre of recent memory is obviously Shrek, who, in my opinion, did not eat nearly enough babies. Or Eddie Murphy voiced donkeys.
4. Trolls
The biggest and the baddest, trolls are by far the most powerful monsters on the list based on pop culture use of the creatures and legendary reference. Trolls can live under bridges and charge tolls (check the etymology on that one) like a homeless IRS agent or be found eating hobbits or being captured by really awesome bearded guys in Norway which I will get to in a minute.

I'm noticing a thing with clubs.
Trolls originated in Norse mythology where they were associated with certain geographical features (frost trolls, cave trolls, etc.) and were generally nasty creatures and not helpful to humans in the rare occasions they spoke to each other rather than eating them or getting turned to stone in the sunlight. Later, they transferred to Scandanavian mythology where they were associated with certain geographical features (frost trolls, cave trolls, etc.) and were generally nasty creatures and not helpful to humans in the rare occasions they spoke to each other rather than got eaten or turned to stone in the sunlight with the added bonus of hating all things good and Christian.

Pop Culture
Trolls are usually biggest and meanest of creatures in the popular mythos of stories like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and America (well maybe not that one). The Elder Scrolls series tries to keep it fresh by having them look and behave like gorillas crossed with Sam Fisher if you're in to that sort of thing. Personally, I think the best representation of trolls in any sort of modern media can be found in the film Troll Hunter in which a group of students making a documentary (Cloverfield style) track a government paid Troll Hunter who's job is to keep the sometimes massive (like the size of a mountain) creatures out of public eye. It's an incredibly good time and I highly recommend it to anyone for every reason.

There's... Something on the wing!

Bonus: Gremlins
Don't get them wet, don't feed them after midnight, and don't let them have access to power tools or aircraft-grade aluminum. Though not as standard as the other beasties found on this list, the gremlins have a strong following in popular culture and are the newest creature to appear in history.

Jacked the Smurf
Though the word may derive from the Old English gremian, which means "to vex," the modern use of the word gremlin is to describe creatures described by members of the Royal Air Force in the 1920s that sabotaged aircraft. The most common place to encounter a gremlin you ask? Scotland, as described by Pauline Gower in 1938, is also known as "gremlin country" where they terrible little creatures ran around snipping aircraft wires with scissors.


Pop Culture
Though they can be found in Disney productions, Orson Wells radio programs, and most notably the Gremlins films, the most iconic representation to me would be the Twilight Zone depiction of the creature on the wing. You can experience this story in one of three flavor's, Captain Kirk's (Nightmare at 20,000 feet), Frasier's (Nightmare at 60,000 feet),and a very brief Jim Carrey. The tale depicts a gremlin on the wing of an passenger plane and one man's desperate attempt to save the passengers and crew while convincing them of his sanity.

Aint no party like a goblin party

And so now that you know the origins of your favorite monsters so don't be afraid to get out there and start looking. And if you find your car keys misplaced or that oddly shaped rock you saw on your Scandinavian vacation to be the least bit suspicious, who knows? There may be a story there.